Thursday, August 09, 2018

#WalkAway: Nothing To See Over Here But Russian Bots


WaPo  |  On the pro-Trump Internet last weekend, the #WalkAway hashtag was the nexus of an exciting idea: that “millions of Americans are walking away from the Democrat party,” as one pro-Trump account put it. Breitbart said that the hashtag had gone viral; the Epoch Times said it represented a “growing movement” of Democrats — particularly minority Democrats — abandoning their party, and liberalism.

#WalkAway, the hashtag, went viral this weekend, as something of a delayed reaction to a popular video renouncing liberalism by Brandon Straka, who described himself to the Epoch Times as a New York hairdresser and aspiring actor. The video, posted in late May, now has more than 1 million views on Facebook. In it, Straka says he was once a liberal, but now he is not.

“If you are a person of color, an LGBT person, a woman or an American immigrant, the Democratic Party wants you to know you are a victim,” Straka says in the video. “This is perhaps the Democratic Party’s greatest, and most insidious, lie.”

“I am walking away. And I encourage all of you to do the same. Walk away,” Straka concludes. The video was meant to spark a movement; this weekend’s going viral of the hashtag has been cited as proof that Straka has succeeded.

As the Internet fragments, our understanding of what it means to go “viral” has become complicated, and increasingly meaningless. A hashtag claiming to capture a movement among liberals has gone viral, in this case, almost exclusively on the right-wing Internet, as a reinforcement of one of its binding ideas.